The most common request the Cabinet and I receive as we prepare to make appointments for another year is for a pastor who can motivate the members to really get involved, attract new people, who are young and demonstrate great maturity.
The Cabinet often refers to this as the “Savior Syndrome.” They desire someone who will come to their rescue and save them from all of their problems and difficulties. The other requests are from pastors. All they want is a congregation filled with lay leaders who are anxious to use all of their gifts and talents, where there is great potential, and the members have plenty of financial resources and are generous givers. The Cabinet refers to this as the “Perfect Church syndrome.” They are convinced they have never been appointed where their true gifts and potential can be used and everyone will recognize how extremely capable they are.
The problem with these syndromes is that there are no saviors or perfect churches. Pastors have gifts, talents, strengths, passions and weaknesses. Many of these pastors lead fruitful ministries in local churches. Congregations have leaders, readiness for certain ministries, financial resources, and some members are extremely generous. Most congregations have significant potential, but prefer to remain like they are rather than to radically change their mission, vision, and values to become all that God intends.
The way forward is for pastors and congregations to understand that God refuses to wait for savior pastors or perfect churches to bring salvation and transform the world. Look at a few of the people God used to open the doors to the Kingdom.
David committed adultery and had Bathsheba’s husband killed to protect his reputation. Paul arrested Christians so the authorities could stone them to death. Jonah ran in the opposite direction when God called him for a mission, and later had a pity party because God forgave those he hated. James and John wanted seats of honor rather than being servants for Jesus. Peter denies Jesus three times after promising he was ready to die rather than flee from Jesus’ side.
History would reveal many other persons who were less than perfect, who often made horrible decisions, who failed to lead, and yet God used them in ways beyond our imagination. God calls and uses clergy and laity who are willing to respond and give their best.
Two major commitments are essential to enable pastors to become saviors and congregations to become perfect churches. The primary motivation of all leaders is to communicate to the people in our communities that God loves them so much that he sent his only son in order to save and redeem them and the world. Any other motivation derails God’s mission. The second commitment is for laity and clergy to work as a team.
March Madness brings together some of the best basketball teams in the nation. The teams who are most successful are the ones that can best function together rather than those who have the best athletes. Some teams will have athletes who will go on to play professional basketball for many years to come, but they may not win their tournament games. Each player is expected to play his/her role and function together to produce the winning results.
What would it be like to see every congregation committed to introducing people in their community to Jesus Christ, helping them to come to justifying faith, and moving them toward living with the mind and heart of Jesus? What would it be like if clergy and lay leadership saw each other as team members committed to fulfill Christ’s commission? What would it be like if instead of blaming and making excuses, every member of the team worked to make sure the team was winning? Pastors and congregations do not need to wait for a different appointment. Such commitments and actions can begin today, all to the honor and glory of God.